Narrative :: Jonah: Introduction Notes on ch:  3  4  

Study Notes on Jonah (including Hebrew narrative) by Tim Bulkeley

Jonah Prays

2:1 "Jonah prayed" the word suggests an intercession or supplication. The rhythm of the psalm that follows is 3/2, like a lament. However the content of the psalm is more like a thanksgiving.

Notice that throughout ch.1 Jonah failed to pray, even when the pagans did. Now after offering himself to death, and when his situation seems impossible, finally he offers a polished and pious psalm.

The Psalm

Many words and motifs link the psalm to the rest of the story. These include (at least):
casting   2:3,4   cf. 1:5,7,12,15;
coming/going   2:7   cf. 1:3,8; 3:4
crying out   2:2   cf. 1:2,6,14; 3:2,4,5,8;
descent   2:6   cf. 1:3,5
come/bring up   1:2  cf. 4:6,7
mercy   2:8   cf. 4:2
sacrifices   2:9   cf. 1:16
sea   2:3   cf. 1:4,5,9,11,12,13,15
soul   2:5,7   cf. 1:4; 4:3
life   2:6   cf. 4:3,8
vowing   2:9   cf. 1:16

2:2 Jonah is glad to be in the "belly of the fish" (2:1) because "out of the belly of Sheol" (2:2) his cry to God has been heard!

2:3 "You cast me into the deep" this seems a bit steep, Jonah asked the sailors to throw him over board, God asked Jonah to head (overland) to Nineveh not to sea! However throughout the story Jonah will exhibit a fine ability to express how the world feels if one is Jonah.

2:4 "'I am driven away from your sight" the way we heard the story there wasn't much driving being done, cf. 1:3 "run away... from the presence", "he found a ship"... (Cf.1:10 the sailors "knew that he was fleeing from the presence of Adonai, because he had told them so.")

"how shall I again look upon thy holy temple?" cf. remarks on 2:7

2:5-6 Jonah's description is graphic and powerful poetry, it uses mythic language to give a feel of heroic struggle to his plight!
2:7 "When my soul fainted within me, I remembered Adonai;
and my prayer came to thee, into thy holy temple."

As so often in the book Jonah is conventionally "religious", he knows all the right words and phrases, sounds pious, but acts his own disobedient way. 

"God on our side" is a common idea in human societies, but not so very different from "God in my pocket", the notion of a deity we can control is perhaps the desire of all human religiosity.

Do you agree? 
In what sense does human religion seek to control God? 
What aspects of the human religion that you know best (the life of your local church?) seem to try to do this, or expect God to do what "we" want?

2:8 "Those who worship vain idols forsake their true loyalty." Above on the ship the sailors are doing the opposite, sacrificing to the one true God, the Ninevites will soon show a similar change! Jonah is the only one here to forsake true hesed "loyalty/mercy" cf. 4:2. Ackerman notes that Jonah will finish his pious prayer promising to do what the sailors are already performing.

2:9 "Deliverance belongs to Adonai!" - the pious cry with which Jonah closes his contrast between idol worshipers and himself - like all the references to God's saving action in his psalm refers to past salvation. The psalm gives thanks for salvation already experienced. At this point in the story only Jonah and the sailors have experienced deliverance.

To whose deliverance is Jonah's psalm refering?

Are our prayers ever as self centered as Jonah's?

2:10 "spewed" the Hebrew word for vomit (unsuprisingly) is only used in negative cotexts in the Bible. Various English Bibles in different ways seek to soften the image, since the fish acts on God's command.

© Tim Bulkeley, 2003